I’ve been called by the BBC, Marketplace and Vanity Fair in the last 24 hours to comment about the Sony Hack. I find it rather ironic that all of a sudden the destructive power of hackers are front page news, when many of us have been saying for years that the anarcho-hacker culture was going to destroy the entertainment business as we know it. But now we can see that a single “super-empowered individual” (Tom Friedman’s term) can bring a $30 Billion corporation to its knees. I can imagine that the “Guardians of Peace” could be a single black hat hacker hired by the North Koreans sitting in his bedroom somewhere in China or Russia, threatening a new 9/11 attack on America movie theaters in broken english. The fact that the kid had no power to make his threats real is almost irrelevant.
One hundred years ago an earlier age of anarchy caused havoc in the world. From the Assassination of President McKinley in 1901 to the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 which started the First World War, anarchists roamed the world and brought chaos to geopolitical arrangements. Big business men like John D. Rockefeller and Henry Clay Frick were so often targets of anarchist plots that a bodyguard became standard perk for high level executives.
But the Sony Hack is just the first wave in an unstoppable tsunami of super hacks that are to come as the Internet of Things becomes ubiquitous. As Sue Halpern points out, the possibilities to screw up your daily life are endless.
Even so, no matter what we do, the ubiquity of the Internet of Things is putting us squarely in the path of hackers, who will have almost unlimited portals into our digital lives. When, last winter, cybercriminals broke into more than 100,000 Internet-enabled appliances including refrigerators and sent out 750,000 spam e-mails to their users, they demonstrated just how vulnerable Internet-connected machines are.
Not long after that, Forbes reported that security researchers had come up with a $20 tool that was able to remotely control a car’s steering, brakes, acceleration, locks, and lights. It was an experiment that, again, showed how simple it is to manipulate and sabotage the smartest of machines, even though—but really because—a car is now, in the words of a Ford executive, a “cognitive device.”
The idea of a hacker causing your car to crash is not science fiction. Yesterday Drago Security reported that a major German steel plant was wrecked by hackers.
The BSI document states that a steelworks site was directly targeted using a very sophisticated spear phishing and social engineering method to gain access onto the office network of the facility. From there, the adversary moved into the production network which resulted in “massive damage to machinery.” They reported that failures became more frequent in the individual control components as well as the overall system and the failures resulted in the blast furnace not being regulated properly.
The rallying cry of the 19th Century anarchists was “property is theft”, which is of course the point of view of Pirate Bay and the other cyber criminals who have done their best to destroy the music business and are now turning their sights on the movie and television business. Its a continuum, from Pirate Bay to the Guardians of Peace. We decided that the nature of globalization was so seductive that to connect everything to a single network would change the world in wonderful ways. In many ways the globalists were right, but we are just beginning to understand the dark side of their techno-utopianism.